Name: Buddy Keller
City of Residence: Sanford, N.C.
County of Residence: Lee
Employed by: Carolina Commercial Contractors
Appointed by: Speaker of the House
Appointment Date: February 2023
What are activities or leadership roles you provide for the community/state?
I served as Chairman of the Sanford/Lee County Regional Airport Authority for over 20 years and spearheaded the airport’s move to its current location, where it became the Raleigh Executive Jetport. Raleigh Executive Jetport is now the largest General Aviation airport in the state and its economic impact on Lee County and our entire region has been immense. I also served on and was Vice Chairman of the Sanford/Lee County Economic Development Corporation for many years. Currently, I serve on the Sanford ABC Board.
What is your connection to rural, tobacco-dependent or economically distressed areas?
I grew up in Sanford in Lee County, which was a tobacco-producing county. I had family members who were tobacco farmers, and I worked many summers as a teenager priming tobacco. I have also been involved in developing businesses in some of the most economically depressed, rural areas of North Carolina. As a founder of two banks and Chairman of the Board of one for many years, both with branches in rural North Carolina counties, I became even more keenly aware of and acquainted with the problems facing economically challenged areas.
How does your personal and/or professional life complement Golden LEAF’s mission and priorities?
In addition to my banking experiences, developing real estate and building commercial projects all over the state has allowed me to see the stark differences between urban areas of North Carolina and rural ones. These differences are apparent in the trained workforce availability, infrastructure availability, and overall resource availability. Working to create and promote some of these rural North Carolina businesses and projects allows me to see the needs and gaps that Golden LEAF could potentially fill.
What are you most excited about seeing happen in economic development in rural NC in the next 5-10 years?
I am very excited about the opportunities for improved infrastructure in many small North Carolina towns and rural counties. The wave of companies coming to North Carolina in the post-Covid era can be a catalyst to improve opportunities and upgrade many types of infrastructure, including workforce training, in counties that have been previously underserved.
What do you want people to know about the Golden LEAF Foundation?
Golden LEAF exists to help the North Carolina communities that need it the most. Golden LEAF staff and board are willing and able to work with community leaders to offer solutions for real and unique problems facing economically depressed and struggling areas. The resources available to Golden LEAF are immense and its commitment to improve rural North Carolina is genuine.